In Odes to the Ordinary, Emily Benson-Scott employs a poetic concept dating back to ancient Greece to valorize the commonplace. Nothing escapes her wondrous gaze, as the poet celebrates everyday objects as diverse as an elevated subway in Queens to a Quaking Aspen in Vermont. Brimming with sensual language and densely layered imagery, these poems remind us to have gratitude for the beauty that infuses even the most seemingly insignificant objects or unpleasant circumstances —from bad breakups to bad weather. Attention also becomes a vehicle towards greater empathy when the poet turns her gaze towards a weary carriage horse in Central Park or a bucket of crabs awaiting their demise. This debut collection will awaken a sense of wonder, helping to ground us in the present moment and to find the miraculous in the mundane.
Praise for Odes to the Ordinary
“Emily Benson-Scott notices everything in her Odes to the Ordinary (which is really everything when you think about it, even death) but that’s the point here, nothing is to be missed or treated as ‘ordinary.’ In her lovely poem ‘Late Bloomer’, she writes — ‘She dislikes the elder rose past her prime / her fragrant beauty collapsed, / her breast a nest for suckling bees’. There is surprise and beautiful language: the Ss, the internal rhyme. Her poems welcome you, but you need to watch your step, all of a sudden, in ‘Ode to Prisoners in a Park’, there is freedom, a park, and then ‘how it must seem, the / sky exquisite as opium’ the rhyme and jarring smoothness of ‘opium’ takes you to another place in the poem. Indeed, Benson-Scott does something very interesting in her first lines — she poses a question, makes a statement, draws you in from the start, and you’ll keep reading and turning the page for another well-observed line that will stay with you whispering or burning — like ‘claws lit/ with the fire of existence, a sudden match-tip redness’.”
—Robert Lipton, former Poet Laureate of Richmond California, social activist, and author of A Complex Bravery
“Perhaps the deepest root in all of poetry isn’t elegy’s instinct to mourn, nor eros’s urge to sing, but something simpler than either, an innate instinct to praise the world and all that’s in it. So Caedmon begins his hymn, ‘Now I praise,’ and so Emily Benson-Scott offers us her Odes to the Ordinary. It takes a poet of both genuine gentleness and real humility to understand that our truest wonders hardly seem like wonders at all. So it is these poems give us back as gifts what we’d easily otherwise take for granted—the subway come up from underground snaking through the sky, an egret in central park, a rainy wedding remembered not with regret but gratitude. That is the word that suffuses these pages, gratitude. It is a small lesson in the daily graces we overlook when we seek epiphany instead of simple hours, and this book is a correction to that mistake, reminding us all of what all is most ours.”
—Dan Beachy-Quick, poet, essayist, and translator, author of a translation from Ancient Greek, Stone-Garland—Six Poets from the Greek Lyric Tradition
“Emily Benson-Scott’s poems are lush displays of language, joy, and hope that shimmer and sear with a master’s stroke. Of course, you will rediscover Keats in new and exciting ways on these pages, but there is also a nod to what Plath might have done in the out years. These poems are fiercely ambitious and sleek with urgency. An important book for our time, this collection provides a ready salve to heal a post-pandemic world.’”
—Dean Smith, poet, author of Baltimore Sons, Director of Duke University Press
“Emily Benson-Scott, lend me your eyes. Let me see the beauty in the ordinary the way you do in your exquisite Odes to the Ordinary. Where else can I find an ‘Ode to Mud Season,” ‘Ode to a Red Maple,” ‘Ode to A Carriage Horse in Central Park,” ‘Ode to a Stripped Bicycle in Brooklyn”? In your poems, a world I never see, a world that lurks below the surface, comes into view. In ‘Ode to the Present Moment,’ you write ‘Today as I wait / for the biopsy results, the world / blindsides me with beauty’ – just as your poems blindsided me with beauty in these worrisome moments of time. In your ‘Ode to Rain’ umbrellas are ‘blooming everywhere.’ And ‘pelicans, in their / hunt for sustenance, skim low, like so many skipped rocks enlivening the surface.’ There is even a poem, ‘Motel Six,’ which describes the ‘dingy drapes, in the spongy, midnight-blue carpet / steeped in Sin, the broken smoke detector / dangling like a unsightly eye.’ My favorite poem in the collection, ‘Reykjavik’ describes Emily’s mother as if her hand forever ‘clutched a slender string / attached to a helium balloon that tugged continuously / upwards, towards the forgetful sky.’ Emily, lend me your eyes so I can hear ‘the blustering rush of waterfalls.’ In Odes to the Ordinary, Emily describes herself as filled with ‘tumultuous passion, for the smallest things – Maraschino cherries, a midnight stroll’ – a host of tiny things this remarkable book helps all of us see for the first time.”
—Steve Zeitlin, Founding Director, City Lore, author of The Poetry of Everyday Life: Storytelling and the Art of Awareness
“A collection of free-verse poetry that aims to locate the hearts of everyday things. . . . In many poems, the speaker interacts with her subject, allowing herself to be stirred by its inherent nature. The fleeting moments between the cessation of a storm and stillness are a reminder to appreciate clarity in the chaos of life . . . The poems effectively render ostensibly banal things worthy of close examination, and they find beauty and complexity in objects and experiences usually taken for granted. . . . A perceptive set of poems that find the extraordinary in the ordinary.” (Read the full review here.)
“Odes to the Ordinary is a tribute to everyday life and the wonder of ordinary living. It cultivates an atmosphere of appreciation and observation that reveals both the truths in ordinary wonder and the fallacies that lie in expectations of extraordinary circumstances. . . .Poetic descriptions promote a newfound appreciation for the ordinary, a more empathic response to the life around us, and the underlying beauty of the most mundane of life experiences and events. Black and white watercolor art peppered throughout further enhances the detail and nature of these works. Emily Benson-Scott’s free verse is especially adept at juxtaposing the personal with environmental influences . . . Whether describing images from history in ‘After Pompeii’ or reflecting on strong women in pieces such as ‘Ode to a Topless Woman in France,’ these poems assume the form of celebrations of nature, travel, and small moments of observational experience that translate to bigger insights on relationships between self and the world. Odes to the Ordinary will prove especially delightful for creative writing classes considering the ode format, and is highly recommended for literary libraries and readers of modern poems who would better understand and appreciate the incarnations of ordinary life via poetic reflections.”
—D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
About the Author
Emily Benson-Scott‘s work has appeared in Atlanta Review, Cold Mountain Review, Colorado Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Nimrod International Journal, and Southern Poetry Review, among other journals. Her travel writing has appeared in The London Daily Telegraph, Time Out New York, Delta Sky, Postcards, Venice, and Ultratravel. She holds a BA in international relations from Cornell University, and an MFA in creative writing from Goddard College. Formerly an adjunct professor with CUNY, Emily and her husband have spent the last decade working remotely from locations around the world, ranging from the Arctic Circle of Norway to the stiletto heel of Italy. More at www.emilybensonscott.com
Odes to the Ordinary
Page Count: 88 pages
Trim Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Publication Date: April 4, 2023
Distributor: IPG / Chicago
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights & Publicity contact: Dede Cummings
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